Thursday, 31 May 2012

French Open: 3rd Round Predictions for Day 6

The top three on Day 6:
Ana Ivanovic
1. Sam Stosur v Nadia Petrova
There are a number of exciting third round matches to look forward too on the women's side but I have gone for Stosur against Petrova as my top pick.  Stosur has looked totally at home on the clay so far posting two comfortable victories; she overcame Irina Falconi in the second round, 6-1 6-4.  Petrova has also looked impressive so far with straight set wins over potentially tricky opponents in Iveta Benesova and Chanelle Scheepers.  The last two matches that Petrova and Stosur have played were total epics, which makes this a mouthwatering clash.  Petrova prevailed in Indian Wells earlier this year, but most significant of all is that this will be the first time they have played on clay.  Both players like this surface but i'm giving the edge to Stosur...
Prediction - Stosur to beat Petrova in 2 very tight sets

2. Ana Ivanovic v Sara Errani
Ana Ivanovic has become more and more consistent throughout 2012 and a good performance at Roland Garros will see her on the cusps of breaking the top 10 once again.  She was in fine form in the second round as she recorded her first ever win over Shahar Peer.  She will now take on the accomplished clay courter, Sara Errani.  The Italian defeated the resurgent Melanie Oudin in the second round having struggled past Casey Dellacqua in her opener.  Errani has compiled a stunning run on the dirt this year having claimed titles in Acapulco, Barcelona and Budapest.  Ivanovic leads the head to head 2-0, but Errani is undoubtedly playing the best tennis of her career.  I think this will actually be quite straightforward for Ivanovic; yes Errani has racked up a bundle of wins and she loves the clay, but she lacks the weapons and most significant of all, has not beaten anyone inside the top 15 this year...
Prediction - Ivanovic to beat Errani in 2 sets

3. Agnieszka Radwanska v Svetlana Kuznetsova
Agnieszka Radwanska overcame her first potential stumbling block when she dispatched Venus Williams in a 6-2 6-3 victory.  Although Venus was lacklustre at best, Radwanska served extremely well and gave the returning American no opportunities to get a foothold in this match.  She made just six unforced errors throughout the whole match and kept great depth on her shots.  Not many people have been talking about Kuznetsova but the former Roland Garros champion has managed to advance through her first two rounds without few dramas.  The Russian has a complete game, but has allowed her mental frailties to get the better of her in recent years.  This could be a tough match for Radwanska as she has lost 9 of her 12 previous encounters with Kuznetsova.  I think Kuznetsova will race out to a lead, but I just cannot see her crossing the finish line...
Prediction - Radwanska to beat Kuznetsova in 3 sets

Best of the rest:
Dominika Cibulkova
The top seed, Victoria Azarenka will play the Canadian, Aleksandra Wozniak in what should be a much tougher match than her second round.  Another interesting encounter on day 6 will see the in-form Angelique Kerber take on Flavia Pennetta in the last match on court 1.  They last played in a gruelling quarter-final at last year's US Open and I expect another tight match here with Kerber eventually prevailing.

Potential banana skins:
I think many of the higher seeds will be tested, but I think the majority will progress.  Dominika Cibulkova is the seed most in trouble of slipping tomorrow; she plays Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez who scored a surprising victory over Lucie Safarova in the previous round.  Like Safarova, Cibulkova does not respond well to players who have a lot of variety to their game so that is the most likely upset for me...

Highlight matches in the mens draw:
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are back in action on day 6; Federer takes on Nicolas Mahut, meanwhile Djokovic will play Nicolas DevilderJuan Martin Del Potro who has struggled with a knee injury in his first two matches is likely to be given a stern test by Marin Cilic.  Two other matches to keep an eye on will be Gilles Simon against Stan Wawrinka, and Fernando Verdasco against Andreas Seppi.  I think both will be gruelling matches but Simon and Verdasco will end up winners.

The outcome of Day 5's highlight match, Jankovic v Lepchenko:
My preview was that it would be tight, tense and dramatic with Lepchenko prevailing... and so it proved to be! Lepchenko pulled off the upset with a 7-6 4-6 6-4 victory as Jankovic wasted a number of significant first set opportunities.  The American, who has boosted her shots at making the Olympics will now play Francesca Schiavone in the third round, who she beat earlier this month in Madrid.

You can follow my original predictions for the WTA and ATP draws at Roland Garros.  I am 18/31 for the women's draw so far and 20/30 for the men's draw as we move into the third round tomorrow.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

French Open: 2nd Round Predictions for Day 5

The top three on Day 5:
Caroline Wozniacki
1. Varvara Lepchenko v Jelena Jankovic
The match between Varvara Lepchenko and Jelena Jankovic is the most intriguing of the day 5 match-ups.  Jankovic managed to record an all important win in the first round having gone 0-4 through the European clay court season.  She was far from impressive though as she sneaked past Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, 1-6 6-1 7-5.  Lepchenko has steadily been improving this year, but has had a real problem in closing out matches.  She wasted match points in the second set against Ksenia Pervak before eventually prevailing 6-2 6-7 6-4.  This match will be fascinating because not only does Lepchenko struggle to close matches, Jankovic has had similar problems in the last year or two as she has won just 4 of her last 15 three set matches.  I fancy this one to be tight, tense and dramatic, but that Lepchenko will sneak the win...
Prediction - Lepchenko to beat Jankovic in 3 sets

2. Caroline Wozniacki v Jarmila Gajdosova
Caroline Wozniacki has crept under the radar at this year's Roland Garros having been demoted to the number 9 seed.  She has suffered a string of injuries in the warm-up tournaments, which have left many not even posing the question as to whether she is a contender.  She played a clean first round match displaying her defensive instincts to cruise past Eleni Daniilidou, 6-0 6-1.  She will face Jarmila Gajdosova in the second round, who has never seemed to recover her top 30 level tennis following the break-up of her marriage last year.  She benefitted from a withdrawal in the first round against Magdalena Rybarikova.  Gajdosova has compiled some impressive results at Roland Garros in previous years having made the 4th round in 2010 and losing a tight 3rd round match to Andrea Petkovic last year.  Wozniacki has had some tough matches with the hard hitting Aussie, but I think she will prevail in relatively comfortable fashion.
Prediction - Wozniacki to beat Gajdosova in 2 sets

3. Julia Goerges v Heather Watson
I have chosen this match as I was so pleased to see a female Brit make the second round! Heather Watson produced a fine performance to defeat Elena Vesnina in the first round, 6-2 6-4.  She has now won four matches on the red clay at Roland Garros having come through qualifying and will fancy her chances against Julia Goerges in the second round.  This is a section of the draw that suddenly looks rather open with Serena Williams now missing following that extraordinary loss to Virginie Razzano last night.  Goerges did well to overcome a tricky opponent in the first round as she beat Lucie Hradecka, 6-4 7-6.  I think Watson's growing confidence will give her a chance in this match, but I ultimately think that Goerges's weapons will win her the match.
Prediction - Goerges to beat Watson in 2 tight sets

Best of the rest:
Peng Shuai
Many of the top seeds have routine looking matches in the second round although there should be no complacency after watching Serena stumble in the first round.  The number two seed, Maria Sharapova should not be threatened by Ayumi Morita, meanwhile Li Na will be too solid for Stephanie Foretz-Gacon.  Petra Kvitova is first up on Suzanne Lenglen once again as she plays Urszula RadwanskaFrancesca Schiavone will take on Tsvetana Pironkova, who had a good win over Yanina Wickmayer in the first round, and Virginie Razzano will try to back up her huge win over Serena against Arantxa Rus.

Potential banana skins for the seeds:
As mentioned above, I think Jankovic will be one seed to fall on day 5.  Peng Shuai is another seed I predict to exit the competition; her opponent, Lourdes Dominguez Lino is a clay court grinder who will get a lot of balls back in court and Peng is known to be struggling with long-term injury problems.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will have to serve well in her second round match against Melinda Czink.  The Hungarian has a big game; just ask Sam Stosur who was tumbled out of Wimbledon last year in the first round.  Finally, I think Maria Kirilenko will be tested by Klara Zakopalova, but will ultimately advance in three sets.

The outcome of Day 4's highlight match, Radwanska v Venus:
The match between Agnieszka Radwanska and Venus Williams was a bit of an anticlimax as Radwanska strolled to a subdued 6-2 6-3 victory.  Williams are error-strewn for much of the match, but Radwanska served very well and despite a slight wobble at the end, looked very impressive indeed...

You can follow my original predictions for the WTA and ATP draws at Roland Garros.  My women's took a massive hit when my title pick was bundled out yesterday! The mens is looking solid so far but take a look for yourself :-)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Virginie Razzano shocks Serena Williams in astonishing Roland Garros opener

Serena Williams
Virginie Razzano produced the upset of all upsets to defeat Serena Williams in one of the most remarkable matches I have seen. Razzano completed a 4-6 7-6 6-3 victory in 3 hours and 3 minutes and with so many talking points I could write an essay... after some high quality tennis from both, Serena led 5-1 in the second set tiebreak.  She could have gone 6-1 up (with match points) but she judged a ball from Razzano to go out and stopped play incorrectly.  From there, it was a total meltdown from the American as Razzano went on a sensational winning streak to nail the tiebreak and race into a 5-0 third set lead.

I was so surprised with Serena's mindset during the third set because she totally crumbled and lost all the bare foundations of her game.  Her mood was totally calm on the outside and I think it would have been better for her to let it all out and move on from the mistakes she made in the second set tiebreak.  Razzano raised her level in the third set and took the game to Serena who was just pushing the ball back into court.  

At 5-0, Serena found a way back into the match as Razzano started to struggle with what looked like cramp.  She lost two points to hindrance for shouting out during the point.  It looked like Serena might do the unthinkable as at 5-2, the two players fought out a 12-deuce, marathon game, which I spent most off on the edge of my seat.  Serena produced some incredible winners on match points, but was unable to make the necessary returns as she made some shocking errors of Razzano's serve.  Likewise, Razzano played some great points at deuce but just couldn't find the right ingredients on the match point.... but eventually and unbelievably, she wrapped up the win on her 8th match point to the jubilations of the French crowd.

It was an amazing victory for Razzano who has been through a terrible time having lost her fiancee last year.  She deserves this win, which is by far the best win of her career.  I will be very interested to see Serena's reactions in her post-match conference and what happened in this one.  It is the first time in her career that she has lost in the first round of a Grand Slam.  I have also lost my tip for the title in round one!!! I never normally go for Serena and paid the price this time! Oh well :-P

Some highlights from the incredible match

French Open: 2nd Round Predictions for Day 4

The top three on Day 4:
Agnieszka Radwanska
1. Agnieszka Radwanska v Venus Williams
The highlight of the second round matches will see the world number three, Radwanska take on the rapidly rising, Venus Williams.  Both came through their openers in different circumstances; Radwanska strolled to victory losing just one game to Bojana Jovanovski, meanwhile Venus was forced to fight from a set down to beat Paula Ormachea; however despite the three-setter, Venus finished the match in fine form in what was a high quality first rounder.  This should be a very interesting match because although Radwanska won their last encounter in Miami earlier this year, Venus's power game has been destructive in their five previous matches.  It really will all depend on which Venus comes out to play...
Prediction - Radwanska to beat V. Williams in 3 sets

2. Shahar Peer v Ana Ivanovic
Ivanovic had a perfect match to start her 2012 Roland Garros campaign as she overcame Lara Arrubarena-Vecino, 6-1 6-1.  Her second round match will be a step up against Shahar Peer.  Peer won her opening match against Stephanie Dubois in straight sets and after a torrid start to 2012, has started to slowly pick up some wins on the tour.  The head-to-head is fascinating because Peer has won all three of their previous matches although their last two encounters were in 2010 when Ivanovic was slumping dramatically.  Peer has a very consistent grinding nature to her game, but Ivanovic has the weapons so if she can keep her cool, this should be a straightforward victory and a first ever win over Peer...
Prediction - Ivanovic to beat Peer in 2 sets

3. Victoria Azarenka v Dinah Pfizenmaier
Azarenka suffered an almighty scare in her first round match against the world number 105, Alberta Brianti. Although her game looked a million miles from the level that has taken her to four titles this year including the Australian Open, she has developed an edge and a terrific mental toughness that makes her very hard to beat.  Her opponent in the second round is somewhat of an unknown quanitity in the world number 198, Pfizenmaier who won her first main drawGrand Slam match with an impressive three set win of Caroline Garcia.  Azarenka should be wary of Pfizenmaier after her first round exploits, but after a tough match, the top players often follow it up without few dramas...
Prediction -Azarenka to beat Pfizenmaier in 2 sets

Marion Bartoli
Best of the rest:  
French hopes will be resting on Marion Bartoli tomorrow as she takes on Petra Martic in an intriguing second round match.  I think she will be severely tested, but will find a way into the third round.  I predict both Sam Stosur (who plays Irina Falconi) and Angelique Kerber (who plays Olga Govortsova) will progress in straight sets.

Potential banana skins for the seeds:
I think that Dominika Cibulkova, Zheng Jie and Nadia Petrova are all in danger tomorrow.  Cibulkova plays the American Vania King, who has won all three of their previous matches and has looked more assured on the clay in recent years having made the 3rd round at Roland Garros last year.  Zheng Jie takes on Aleksandra Wozniak and finally Nadia Petrova plays Chanelle Scheepers, who i a dangerous opponent.  Petrova has been incredibly inconsistent in her results this year so any dips in concentration during this one will see her exit the competition.

You can follow the path of my original predictions for the WTA and ATP draws in Roland Garros.

And finally, I have been watching Game, Set, Mats on Eurosport every night and there was a great feature on Sunday night involving Sam Stosur.  I love how down-to-earth she is ;-)

Monday, 28 May 2012

Azarenka fights past Brianti at Roland Garros

Victoria Azarenka was on the edge of one of the biggest ever shocks in French Open history but somehow she found a way back from the brink in a dramatic first round match against Alberta Brianti.  Brianti had break points to serve for the match at 7-5 5-0, but the wayward Azarenka produced her finest tennis when it mattered with a second serve ace that changed the face of the match.  In this kind of form, Azarenka's chances of winning the French Open look to be slim; however winning a match like this can give you a whole deal of confidence and as long as you get through the first week, it really does not matter how you do it!

Highlights from Azarenka's nailbiter with Brianti

In other matches, Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na both cruised to victories over potentially tricky opponents.  Li defeated Sorana Cirstea with a composed 6-2 6-1 win, meanwhile Radwanska set up a second round clash with Venus Williams as she eased past the brainless ballbashing of Bojana Jovanovski, 6-1 6-0.  There were a number of notable exits from the women's draw on day two; the German duo of Sabine Lisicki and Mona Barthel were both ousted in straight sets.  Lisicki's recent form indicated she could struggle today and she did so in a 6-4 6-3 loss to Bethanie Mattek-Sands.  Barthel's loss was far more surprising and particularly the nature of it as she hit a whopping 44 unforced errors in a 6-1 6-1 loss to Lauren Davis.  Mattek-Sands and Davis were just two of a staggering ten American women to successfully make it into the second round.

Highlights from Li's first match on Philippe Chatrier since claiming the 2011 title

In the men's draw, the most exciting match on paper was the one between Gilles Simon and Ryan Harrison.  Harrison looked to be on his way to the giant killing, but wasted two set points for a two set lead and ultimately never recovered as Simon cranked up the pressure to record a 3-6 7-5 6-4 6-1 victory.  The top seeds all remained unscathed as Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych, John Isner and Milos Raonic all progressed to the second round in straight sets.

I have now coloured my original draws so you can see how I have fared in the first round so far for the mens and womens draws for Roland Garros... there is quite a bit of red!!!

Tomorrow: Day 3 will see the first round wrap up and I will preview the best of the second round matches for Day 4 of the 2012 Roland Garros.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

French Open 2012: Day 1 Review

As has become synonymous with the French Open, play kicked off rather tentatively on the Sunday with Sam Stosur, Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams all enjoying first round wins.  Sam Stosur kicked off proceedings with a solid 6-4 6-0 victory over Elena Baltacha.  The Brit fought well with a great fighting attitude during the first set, but was thoroughly outplayed by the Aussie in the second set who looked completely at home on the Philippe Chatrier court.  Ana Ivanovic was also in impressive form as she strolled past Lara Arrubarena-Vecino, 6-1 6-1.  Venus Williams had a much tougher match as she was forced to fight back from a set down to defeat the tenacious youngster, Paula Ormachea, 4-6 6-1 6-3.

Elena Baltacha
In other women's matches, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Lucie Safarova both won in comfortable straight set wins.  Kuznetsova was first up on the Suzanne Lenglen court and defeated Mirjana Lucic, 6-1 6-3.  Safarova, who I have tipped to the 4th round was never troubled in a 6-2 6-0 cruise against Anastasiya YakimovaAngelique Kerber was not at her best, but she made it through a tight match with Zhang Shuai, 6-3 6-4.  The only seed to lose a set was Sara Errani who fought back from a set and a break down to beat Casey Dellacqua.  She will now play Melanie Oudin in the second round who won her first Grand Slam match since the 2010 US Open with a surprising 6-3 6-3 win over Johanna Larsson.

Lucie Safarova

As the women's seed strolled into the second round, it was the men who had a much tougher time off it on day one.  Juan Martin Del Potro started in fine form against Albert Montanes with some crunching forehand winners, but a knee injury threatened to halt his progress into the second round.  After losing the second set, he managed to steady the ship as Montanes went careering off the rails in a 6-2 6-7 6-2 6-1 loss.  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lost the opening set of his first round match to Andrey Kuznetsov but managed to turn things around to win in 4 sets.  

Juan Martin Del Potro

Stanislas Wawrinka lost a heartbreaker to Andreas Seppi in Rome having wasted numerous match points in that match and it looked like he may be heading for disaster against Flavio Cipolla as he let slip a two set lead; however he managed to claim the win in a 6-3 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-2 victory.  There were two seeds that did not survive the first day of play.  Andy Roddick was beaten in 4 sets by Nicolas Mahut, meanwhile Jurgen Melzer was defeated by Michael Berrer in 5 set.

Andy Roddick

Saturday, 26 May 2012

ATP French Open: Preview and Predictions

PROJECTED QUARTER-FINAL 1 - Djokovic (1) v Tsonga (5)
Novak Djokovic begins his quest for the career Grand Slam against Potito Starace and will be feeling rather happy at the draw he has been handed.  He is projected to meet Jurgen Melzer in the third round and then either Fernando Verdasco or Andreas Seppi in the fourth round.  I would be astounded if he was to fall before the quarter-finals...

Djokovic is projected to meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals; in their most recent encounter, Djokovic won 7-5 6-1 in Rome.  Tsonga's form on the clay has been patchy at best and would indicate that an early exit is on the cards.  He plays Andrey Kuznetsov in the first round and is seeded to meet Viktor Troicki in the third round; however I fancy the Brazilian, Thomasz Bellucci to upset Troicki in the first round and then push Tsonga hard.  If the Frenchman makes the fourth round, he could meet the winner of an interesting third rounder between Gilles Simon and Stanislas Wawrinka.

Highlight first round matches - Seppi v Davydenko, Simon v Harrison, Troicki v Bellucci

Dark Horses - Gilles Simon and Thomasz Bellucci

My QF Prediction - Novak Djokovic v Gilles Simon

Novak Djokovic

PROJECTED QUARTER-FINAL 2 - Federer (3) v Berdych (7)
Roger Federer will open his campaign against Tobias Kamke before a potential second round match with David Nalbandian.  He could then meet Andy Roddick in the third round; however you would be taking a huge risk to bet on Roddick reaching that stage having missed the majority of the clay court season with injury and suffering several losses in the warm-up tournament last week in Dusseldorf.  Federer should not break sweat to the quarter-finals with Radek Stepanek and Feliciano Lopez the highest seeds he could meet in the 4th round.

Things are likely to get much tougher in the quarter-finals for Federer where he could meet the winner of a 4th round showdown between Juan Martin Del Potro and Tomas Berydch.  Del Potro faces Albert Montanes in the first round and may have to get past the big serving Croatian, Marin Cilic in the third round.  Berdych could also have to get past a big server too in the third round in Kevin Anderson; however I expect both to make it to the 4th round.  Berdych and Del Potro last fought out a tense semi-final in Madrid where Berdych prevailed 7-6 7-6...

Highlight first round matches - Mahut v Roddick, Del Potro v Montanes, Llodra v Garcia-Lopez

Dark Horses - Feliciano Lopez and Juan Carlos Ferrero

My QF Prediction - Roger Federer v Juan Martin Del Potro

Roger Federer

PROJECTED QUARTER-FINAL 3 - Ferrer (6) v Murray (4)
David Ferrer has been handed a very favourable draw and will look to build on a 4th round showing last year.  He will play Lukas Lacko in the first round.  The first seed he could meet is Mikhail Youzhny in the third round.  John Isner is a potential 4th round opponent, but his form has been disappointing during the clay court season.  The Spaniard, Marcel Granollers will be a tough test for the American in the third round if they both get that far.

Andy Murray has been struggling with injuries throughout the last month and I cannot see him replicating his semi-final performance from last year.  His first round opponent is Tatsuma Ito and the first seed he could run into is Bernard TomicRichard Gasquet, who defeated him in a three set encounter in Rome, is seeded to meet Murray in the 4th round and it is here where I think he will depart...  

Highlight first round matches - Blake v Youzhny, Dolgopolov v Stakhovsky, Young v Dimitrov

Dark Horses - Marcel Granollers and Richard Gasquet

My QF Prediction - David Ferrer v Richard Gasquet

Highlights from Murray/Gasquet in Rome; they are projected to meet in the 4th round at Roland Garros

PROJECTED QUARTER-FINAL 4 - Tipsarevic (8) v Nadal (2)
Janko Tipsarevic will play the American, Sam Querrey in the first round and faces a number of tough tests if he is to reach the quarter-finals.  In the third round, he could meet Julien Benneteau who is making his return from injury following that horrible fall in Monte-Carlo.  In the 4th round, he should meet the winner of a mouthwatering third round match between Nicolas Almagro and Philipp Kohlschreiber.  The Spaniard, Almagro has been very consistent this year and won the title in Nice this week so I am backing him to rebound after a first round loss at Roland Garros last year.

Rafael Nadal has lost just one match at Roland Garros in his career so it is hard to see him falling before the quarter-finals.  He plays Simone Bolelli in the first round and could meet Florian Mayer in the third round, who he defeated in Rome a week ago.  His 4th round opponent should be a step up with Juan Monaco and Milos Raonic heading for a third round clash.  Monaco has made a quick and spirited return from an injury he picked up in Monte-Carlo.  He managed to take a set off Djokovic in Rome, meanwhile Raonic has shown his promise over the last two months with a win over Andy Murray in Barcelona and coming extremely close to beating Roger Federer on the blue clay of Madrid.

Highlight first round matches - Tipsarevic v Querrey, Kohlschreiber v Ebden, Chela v Baghdatis

Dark Horses - Go Soeda and Juan Monaco

My QF Prediction - Nicolas Almagro v Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

Final Prediction - Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic
Rafael Nadal has played some startling tennis throughout this year's clay court season and I have to back him to win another Grand Slam at Roland Garros.  I think he will beat David Ferrer in the semi-finals and then Novak Djokovic in another epic final of 2012.  I really do not think Roger Federer stands a chance this year and although I think he will make another semi-final, I predict Djokovic to exact revenge on him from last year's semi-final defeat.  The early stages of the draw have not thrown up much excitement for me and I think it will not be until the 4th round when the men's draw really kicks into gear...

ATP Full Predictions to be posted soon...

WTA French Open: Full Predictions

I have now finalised my predictions for the women's draw at Roland Garros and you can see them below... you can keep checking back on the link here to see the progress of my picks!





FINAL - Serena Williams d. Victoria Azarenka